With the Virgin Money London Marathon fast approaching, we asked #TeamVICTA marathon runners with a visual impairment for their top tips. If you are planning on taking part in this world-famous event yourself, here is some great advice to help you prepare for a smooth run.
If you are a sighted runner please take note of the things which can become an issue for those runners who are visually impaired. The London Marathon is an amazing event with such a positive attitude, please be aware and help make it an enjoyable day for everyone.
“The main advice I’d give is to definitely run with a Guide Runner during the London Marathon, even if you don’t usually run with one in other races or in training. This is because the London Marathon is a lot busier than most other races and the amount of hazards are very high. Additionally, it is a challenge for someone with limited sight to even locate the start line and baggage areas before and after the race as there are thousands of people and multiple entrances.
Furthermore, it is really beneficial if you can use the same guide runner during the race as the one you trained with; this is because you get to develop a rapport and understand how each other runs. This is imperative to an enjoyable experience because if you aren’t synchronised with your guide runner then you’ll waste energy and really struggle.
Most common hazards for me were people in large costume who didn’t abide by the rule of sticking to the sides of the race course and oblivious people wearing headphones who suddenly cut in front of me and my guide. Water bottles are by far the most dangerous hazard and I know people sighted and blind who have had their races cut short due to slips and trips. With this in mind, the guide runner should make a conscious effort to take a route that limits interaction with water bottles. Also, it is important that you don’t adopt a different drinking habit during the day compared to how you drank during training. Even if there’s water stops every mile, if you only usually drink every 4 miles, don’t change this on the day.
It is definitely worth taking advantage of the VICTA post-race reception at the Reform Club or similar services and familiarise yourself with its location prior to the race to make sure you don’t get lost post race (like I did ha ha!)”
“Discarded bottles were an issue as they still had water in them so it’s easy to slip and you can’t simply run onto them, we tried to run the opposite side after the water stations to avoid bottles. Also used gels still had some gel in them and they were slippy too.
Be prepared for people stopping without any warning. A good relationship with your guide is essential as there was a lot of last minute shoving needed!
I tried to run as far to the right as possible so people overtook my guide on the left. People get very absorbed in their run and often didn’t see my ‘Blind Simon’ top or the guide vest!
The course was busier than any run I have done before. Short words are needed for guiding instead of sentences as last minute moves were used constantly. Also as my guide started to get tired it was easier for her to say one word commands.
A shorted tether worked better than when it was long. As before people don’t always take much notice of the guide vest and a few people tried to cut between us.
The crowds were massive all of the way around the course. As a blind runner and guide we stood out as much as the costumes and the constant cheering became very overwhelming so be prepared for it.
Also remember most runners hit “the wall”. However, when you are tied together be prepared to have to support your guide as they are only human too!!”
“Visual impairment comes in many different forms and not everyone has same restrictions or needs a certain type of support.
I have tunnel vision and only see very little central vision, I am really 100% dependent now on having someone assist me where ever I go.
I personally use a guide runner for all my runs and training runs. I tend to use a treadmill for most of my training because of this.
The London Marathon is a very congested race from start to finish, I would recommend anyone with a visual impairment to take advantage and use a guide for London. I run tethered to my guide, as this stops other runners trying to squeeze through the middle of you and your guide.
I rely on verbal commands from my guide like “left a bit, right, speed bump ahead, speed bump now, step up, step down”.
If trying to pass slower runners you may need to use single file – I would put my hand on my guides shoulder until we got to a clearer space.
For me its eyes down and concentrate on the path ahead, my guide will get 2 bottles, one for me and themselves. The trick is in the London Marathon to not cut in at the beginning of the water station but run to the outside of most of the other runners then cut in near the end of the water station, this way you experience less congestion. My guide in the past has kicked water bottles to side of my path. I recommend running with your guide before hand to familiarise yourselves with the routine.
Most often other runners will also help and shout out or kick bottles to the side so you avoid tripping over them.
The key to any event for me is to wear high vis tops with clear wording “Blind Runner” or “Visually Impaired Runner” and a “Guide” top for my guide. That way most other runners will give you space and not cut in front of you if they see a gap.
There are still runners who are oblivious to spacial awareness and will cut in front of you. This is when my guide would put their arm across my chest and say “back” and after curse the offending runner who just nearly took you out.
A lot of other events now have a special start for VI runners but London does not. On race day give yourself plenty of time and get to the starting pens in plenty of time before the start of the race.”
Fancy a challenge?